Comparative Vitamin E Requirements and Metabolism in Livestock.

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It has been over 50 years since vitamin E was originally described as a lipid-soluble dietary constituent required for normal reproduction in rats. Vitamin E is recognized as an essential vitamin required for all classes of animals functioning predominantly as an intracellular antioxidant in maintaining the integrity of biological cell membranes. Although a wealth of information has been gathered on clinical signs of vitamin E deficiency, establishing its requirements for animals has been exceedingly difficult because of interrelationships with other dietary constituents. Vitamin E requirements for animals cannot be defined in isolation. Requirements are influenced by the amount and type of fat (particularly with monogastrics) and degree of fat oxidation in the diet; the presence of antioxidants; dietary selenium (closely interrelated with vitamin E), iron, copper, and sulphur amino acids, as well as the physiological status of the animal. Other factors to be considered in assessing vitamin E needs of animals under commercial production conditions include: a) variability of vitamin E content in feedstuffs; b) poor stability of vitamin E during processing and storage of feeds; and c) management practices resulting in overstressed animals. Information on the function of or requirements for vitamin E in animals is very incomplete. Estimated dietary vitamin E requirements for most animal species are in the range of 10-40 IU/kg of diet. Of particular concern is the lack of vitamin E requirement information regarding young dairy and beef calves. Although good experimental evidence indicates a beneficial role of supplemental vitamin E above physiological levels on overall performance, enhanced immunocompetence and preservation of meat and milk products, levels of vitamin E required to produce these desired effects needs to be firmly established. Present estimated dietary requirements for vitamin E across species may need to be redefined as new information becomes available about the role this nutrient plays in growth, health and overall metabolism.